Human challenge trials are not new. They have been carried out for over 50 years and prove to play an important role in the development of medications to fight against diseases such as malaria, typhoid and influenza.

According to the World Health Organisation, “human challenge trials are trials in which participants are intentionally challenged (whether or not they have been vaccinated) with an infectious disease organism. This challenge organism may be close to wild-type and pathogenic, adapted and/or attenuated from wild-type with less or no pathogenicity, or genetically modified in some manner.”

In light of the current pandemic crisis and the extraordinary threat to global public health, human challenge trials are being considered in a number of countries as a possibility to accelerate vaccine development for the novel coronavirus.

After receiving approval from its clinical trials ethics body, the United Kingdom will be the first country in the world to run a COVID-19 human challenge trial which is expected to commence in the next few weeks. This clinical study will involve up to 90 carefully-selected, healthy volunteers, aged 18 to 30, deliberately exposed to COVID-19 in a safe and controlled environment.

It is hoped that the conduct of such clinical trials will give doctors a greater understanding of COVID-19 and help to develop vaccines and treatments to control the pandemic.

While human trials are necessary to ensure the safety of vaccines, there will always be concerns and changes to clinical trial regulations to prevent unnecessary deaths. Learn more about clinical trial regulations and their impact on the insurance industry in our latest reports.